Mike Pezzullo sacked after scathing findings accusing him of misusing his position
An inquiry found the Home Affairs secretary used his position for personal advantage, gossiped disrespectfully about ministers, broke confidentiality and didn’t disclose a conflict of interest.

The government has sacked the secretary of the Home Affairs department, Mike Pezzullo, after an inquiry found he had breached the Public Service Code of Conduct.

The inquiry found he used his position for personal advantage, gossiped disrespectfully about ministers, broke confidentiality, failed to act apolitically, and didn’t disclose a conflict of interest.

In September, Nine Entertainment revealed a trove of texts Pezzullo sent to a Liberal insider, Scott Briggs, who was close to prime ministers Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull. In the texts Pezzullo inserted himself into the political process, lobbying for his bureaucratic interests and his views.

A long-time public servant who served both sides of politics, Pezzullo also worked in the office of Kim Beazley when he was opposition leader.

A hawk on China policy and hard-line on national security issues, especially border protection, Pezzullo was a divisive figure in the bureaucracy.

While he was known for always being willing to express his views forthrightly, current and former senior colleagues were amazed at the overreach his texts represented, including his criticism of a then minister, Marise Payne, and of Julie Bishop when she put up her hand for leadership in 2018.

As soon as the texts were revealed, it was generally recognised in government and public service circles that Pezzullo would not survive.

The government stood him aside, on full salary, while the inquiry was done by Lynelle Briggs, a former public service commissioner.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday said Pezzullo’s termination had been recommended by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Glyn Davis, and the Public Service Commissioner, Gordon de Brouwer. This followed a recommendation from Briggs that he be sacked.

Pezzullo had fully co-operated with the Briggs’ inquiry, Albanese said. He said the present acting head of Home Affairs, Stephanie Foster, would continue to act in the position until a permanent appointment was made.

In a statement the Public Service Commission said Briggs found Pezzullo breached the public service code least 14 times in relation to five overarching allegations. Pezzullo

  • used his duty, power, status or authority to seek to gain a benefit or advantage for himself

  • engaged in gossip and disrespectful critique of ministers and public servants

  • failed to maintain confidentiality of sensitive government information

  • failed to act apolitically in his employment

  • failed to disclose a conflict of interest.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.




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